Italy-The Vacation of a Lifetime: Pt. 2

It’s that time again! Recap of my trip!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013   3:30 pm

We are currently in for ‘siesta’. While not all stores close, some do. By now we have already been awake and sightseeing for seven hours. It is a nice time to rest our feet! As I am writing this, I am glancing up to see the storm clouds rolling in and other tourists parading around the Uffizi. Vespas are roaring around on the street below our apartment. This description may sound like the introduction to a classic movie of sorts. Add the Frank Sinatra I am listening to, and now we have something!

Earlier today we visited the Palazzo Pitti. The palazzo was home to the Medici Dynasty among others. It was quite the interesting living quarters/ mansion/ fortress. It showcased hundreds of paintings in the Palatine Gallery. Raphael, Botticelli, and Rubens paintings fill the enormous gallery. It is simply amazing how the structure came to be the way it is displayed today. There were many pieces depicting Christian figures (Mary, John the Baptist, and of course, Jesus). It was so lovely!

Today I also bought my first real leather piece. It is a gorgeous, magenta wallet. It had a scratch on it and I was concerned about it and asked the store clerk if he had anymore in the same color. As he did not, he told me that he had been working with leather his entire life and would be more than happy to fix it for me (this was all in broken English). He was able to fix it with no extra charge by rubbing some sort of leather protectant (I am guessing) into the wallet and it was gone! The price was 55 Euros which would be equivalent to about $70. I believe it was money well spent!

I was thinking about yesterday and I forgot to mentiom two details that I thought were very interesting. Yesterday, outside of The Duemo, I saw a monk! A real life monk! He was dressed in the traditional brown robe of sorts with a white rope keeping it all together. All the while carrying a mandolin! In addition, we were serenaded by a talented accordian player while eating gelato. It was definitely an Italian melody and made the experience a hundred times better. Here I am in Italy outside of 1,000 year old buildings, eating gelato, and listening to an accordion player! How many 18 year olds can say that?! Yet, as I stated yesterday, everyone is very direct and instead of American street performers who wait to be tipped, this performer went up to tables asking for tips. Very odd. In correlation, today we were asked by a street vendor to buy a necklace. We were sitting at an outdoor cafe and the vendor just came up to us! It must be acceptable here to do such things as they are still going on. So interesting!

Anyway, it is very apparent why Italians are so thin! The food is completely fresh and is not as processed. Chemicals do not make it into food, or rather, if it does, there is significantly less. You would think with the food they serve, Italians would be heavier. Today I had a crossant, toast (one with butter and one with jelly), and a cappuccino. I did not expect that to keep me full for the five hours that it did. Whatever is in the food, is doing its job! In addition to the food, the exercise level is higher. More people walk and use bicycles than I am used to seeing. In two days alone, I have walked about six miles!

7:52 pm
I have been finding myself speaking Italian more consistently. I am using simple words such as si, no, and gratzi. Regardless, I caught myself saying ‘si’ without even realizing it! Maybe by next week I will be using full sentences!

Tonight we went out for gelato and I got a nutella and vanilla cream mixture. OH MY GOODNESS. SO DELICIOUS! 😀

I am very tired indeed for those who may be wondering. With that statement comes my conclusion for this blog post.
Until tomorrow, arrivaderci,
Beth:)

 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

As with every day, we are back at the apartment for siesta. We visited the Basilica Di Santa Croce this morning. The Basilica is a sacred place as well as a burial center for many influential Italians. Those such as Galileo, Michelangelo, and Niccolo Machiavelli are buried and honored there. Three very prominent figures in Italian and world history.

It was a very interesting Basilica. I also thought the way they buried nearly 250 people was fascinating! The tombs are flat against the floor as the people are buried beneath the floor of the Basilica. Each tomb is marked in its entirety by marble and some have inscriptions, coat of arms, or outlines of the bodies that are buried there. The reason the tombs are like this is to symbolize the humility of man. It is supposed to show that everyone’s inevitable outcome and destiny is the same, to be walked on (according to the audio I listened to). Although, tombs of the famous were higher, off the ground, and marked by busts of the deceased and allegories.

In other news, I bought a very beautiful grey, 100% silk scarf! It has a gorgeous fringe hanging upon it and like I stated, is absolutely beautiful! I bought it at an outdoor market outside of the Basilica. Interacting with the merchant was fun. She would unfold the scarf and let it flow in the breeze so you could see the colors. There were hundreds upon hundreds of scarfs. I am a lover of scarves so it was like Heaven!

As I mention everyday, the people are very direct. We have come across a few painters who, if you are sitting, will come near you and open their portfolios. They tend to stand for a moment until you glance over and then they try and convince you why you must not leave without their magnificent painting. At least I think that is what they are saying…they are speaking thick Italian. They will say, “quanto costa?”, meaning, ‘how much does this cost’. Using my context clues I believe they are asking me, ” do you want to know how much this costs?”. Unfortunately, I do not make eye contact, nor do I speak. Which I know is rude, but I have learned that the only way they leave, is if you do that to them… However, I do admire their perseverance! They are out their trying to make a living for themselves instead of begging. I think that is wonderful of them!

Arrivaderci!

Beth 🙂

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My Italian Adventure: Day 4

Wednesday, June 5, 2013   3:30 pm

We are currently in for ‘siesta’. While not all stores close, some do. By now we have already beeen awake and sightseeing for seven hours. It is a nice time to rest our feet! As I am writing this, I am glancing up to see the storm clouds rolling in and other tourists parading around the Uffizi. Vespas are roaring around on the street below our apartment. This description may sound like the intoduction to a classic movie of sorts. Add the Frank Sinatra I am listening to, and now we have something!

Earlier today we visited the Palazzo Pitti. The palazzo was home to the Medici Dynasty among other’s. It was quite the interesting living quarters/ mansion/ fortress. It showcased hundreds of paintings in the Palatine Gallery. Raphael, Botticelli, and Rubens paintings fill the enormous gallery. It is simply amazing how the structure came to be the way it is displayed today. There were many pieces depicting Christian figures (Mary, John the Baptist, and of course, Jesus). It was so lovely!

Today I also bought my first real leather piece. It is a gorgeous, magenta wallet. It had a scratch on it amd I was concerned about it amd asked the store clerk if he had anymore in the same color. As he did not, he told me that he had been working with leather his entire life and would be more than happy to fix it for me (this was all in broken English). He was able to fix it with no extra charge by rubbing some sort of leather protectant (I am guessing) into the wallet and it was gone! The price was 55 Euros which would be equivalent to about $70. I believe it was money well spent!

I was thinking about yesterday and I forgot to mentiom two details that I thought were very interesting. Yesterday, outside of The Duemo, I saw a monk! A real life monk! He was dressed in the traditional brown robe of sorts with a white rope keeping it all together. All the while carryimg a mandolin! In addition, we were serenaded by a talented accordian player while eating gelato. It was definitely an Italian melody and made the experience a hundred times better. Here I am in Italy outside of 1,000 year old buildings, eating gelato, and listening to an accordian player! How many 18 year olds can say that?! Yet, as I stated yesterday, everyone is very direct and instead of American street performers who wait to be tipped, this performer went up to tables asking for tips. Very odd. In correlation, today we were asked by a street vendor to buy a necklace. We were sitting at an outdoor cafe and the vendor just came up to us! It must be acceptablr here to do such things as they are still going on. So interesting!

Anyway, it is very apparent why Italians are so thin! The food is completely fresh and is not as processed. Chemicals do not make it into food, or rather, if it does, there is significantly less. You would think with the food they serve, Italians would be heavier. Today I had a crossant, toast (one with butter and one with jelly), amd a cappuchino. I did not expect that to keep me full for the five hours that it did. Whatever is in the food, is doing its job! In addition to the food, the exercise level is higher. More people walk and use bicycles than I am used to seeing. In two days alone, I have walked about six miles!

7:52 pm
I have been finding myself speaking Italian more consistently. I am using simple words such as si, no, and gratzi. Regardless, I caught myself saying ‘si’ without even realizing it! Maybe by next week I will be using full sentences!

Tonight we went out for gelato and I got a nutella and vanilla cream mixture. OH MY GOODNESS. SO DELICIOUS! 😀

I am very tired indeed for those who may be wondering. With that statement comes my conclusion for this blog post.
Until tomorrow, arrivaderci,
Beth:)

My Italian Adventure: Days 1-3 – Travel from the US to Florence

I arrived in Italy yesterday with my grandparents and my aunt. What a gorgeous country! Like a true blogger, I am keeping a journal to remember this wonderful trip forever. I want to write all my adventures here as well for you all to enjoy. Currently I have no means to include pictures, but once I return home I will post many. Right now I am in Florence, or Firenze as it is spelled in Italian. It is a beautiful city and our apartment looks over the Arno River. Included in this post is what I have written in my journal so far:

Monday, June 3, 2013

My first day in Italy! Once we reached Rome, we took a train from the airport to the Terminale Roma in order to catch the Eurail to Florence.

Our travels began yesterday nearly 24 hours ago. We sat on first class on the airplane and that was an amazing adventure within itself! I never want to go back to coach! They gave everyone a tablet to watch movie and television shows, listen to music, or play games. I watch Safe Haven and Identity Theft, two movies that I have been wanting to see. Between the movies and the sleep I was able to get, the long flight went quickly! We had an overnight flight so we had meals on the plane. They were so much better than I believed they were going to be! My dinner included a salad with balsamic and vinaigrette dressing, a bread stick, grilled chicken with some sort of white chocolate gravy sauce (it was the most delicious sauce for anything that I have had so far), asparagus, and tomatoes. We were also given Ben and Jerry’s ice cream with our choice of toppings. It was really a treat to be taken care of so well!

Once we finally landed in Rome, it was a completely different atmosphere. People were dressed nicer for traveling. The pairs of sweatpants I saw were now few and far between which I thought was interesting. However, more people spoke English in addition to Italian so understanding people was easier than I imagined. Later, we took the train to reach the Terminale Roma. That was interesting because in the United States, one can hardly find a train station that is so populated! The station was a melting pot of cultures. There were various nationalities there visiting. We finally got on the Eurail and began our journey to Florence. We had an hour and a half train ride through Tuscany and the numerous villages were absolutely breathtaking. It was like something out of a movie so of course I had to put on my music so it was like I was in a movie! 🙂 The Duemo is in Florence which I am excited to see. I learned about it when I was a sophomore, in World History and swore that one day I would visit. I cannot wait to see it!

Our apartment is very quaint. It looks over the Arno river and the view is breathtaking! I can see hundreds of scooters lined up on the streets from my window. Which reminds me, let me talk about the driving here. Traffic laws exist, but they must be enforced lightly because people pull out in front of each other, weave between cars, and do not pay much attention. The funny part about this is, however, is that the anger levels are way lower than what I am used to. People go with the flow and road rage is at a minimum. The motor cyclists do make me nervous with the way that they drive. They will weave in and out of cars that are less than a few feet apart! It is an absolute miracle that they stay alive!

Regardless, it is such a beautiful country. When we were flying in I could see Tuscany and it was such a surreal feeling and experience. To know that this land has been farmed for nearly 3,000 years, if not longer, is amazing. It has been quite a long day and I am ready for some sleep…

Tuesday, June 4, 2013  8:00 am

Well, I have been up for nearly three hours already. I was very out of it last night. Jet lag has not affected me much yet…I don’t think… I keep forgetting that everyone at home is still asleep as daylight has not reached them yet. That is strange. Since we have arrived in Italy, the few Italian songs have been on a continuous stream in my mind. None of the American music I know seems to fit with the baroque architecture here. Although, when we made a trip to the market yesterday they had Bruno Mars playing over their music system. I thought that was odd because 1) it was in English and 2) don’t they have their own pop sensations? I guess with the globalization of everything it makes perfect sense to have him singing! I really want to hear Italian music, but evidently the Italians do not want me to hear it! Yet, I still have nearly 2 weeks here so that could change!

I am starting to understand why writers such as Ernest Hemingway came to Europe to write. Although he wrote in Paris, Italy has that creative ambiance as well. I hope that one day I can visit Italy again and sit at a cafe with the city bustling around me and just write. While I have barely ventured out onto the streets so far, I feel as if this atmosphere is very relaxing and quells the soul. I know that it will be difficult to go home to the suburbs knowing that this all exists and has been thriving for thousands of years. I am beginning to see that there is more in this world than I ever imagined. I am going to go for awhile until I have more adventures to write about. Until then, arrivederci!

Still Tuesday… 12:50 pm

We have returned from walking around Florence. What an interesting experience! We saw The Duemo and went inside. It was absolutely gorgeous! The ceiling of it told a story about the journey of life and death through a painting. It showed Heaven and Hell and those who were living and dying. It was a painting from hundreds and hundreds of years ago that had a depiction of Jesus and God. It was an incredible masterpiece. The Duemo is a church and currently a place of worship so every once in awhile you would hear an automated voice say, “Shhhhh, Silencio!”. It would then get louder and repeat itself. Lastly came the English translation.

We also visited many places including the Piazza Della Republica which had a large archway that looked as if it was an entryway to the city at one point. We also visited the Piazza Di San Giovanni, and the Piazza Della Signoria. The streets around Florence are very cramped. The idea of personal space is non-existent. Nearly every building is adorned with flower boxes that contain a wide selection of gorgeous flowers.

Before I came to Italy, I had heard about the gypsy’s and pickpockets. We came across a few gypsy’s today who came up to us begging for money and followed us until we said “Va via!” loudly. Va via means ‘go away’ in Italian and they listen. Everyone is very abrupt and direct here. As I mentioned with personal space, there is none. To some, “no” is not an answer. Some of the vendors keep pressing on until you tell them for the umpteenth time, “no” or if you just walk away.

Anyway, we also saw the Statue of David. Rather, the weather durable David. Tomorrow I will see the real one, the original, not a copy, David, that Michelangelo carved at the age of 26. That is quite the accomplishment Mr. Michelangelo….be proud!

In addition to all of my adventures we also tried gelato! It was sweeter than ice cream and thicker. I got chocolate gelato that had chocolate chips in it which really added something special to it. It was so yummy!

I have always heard about people backpacking through Europe and I saw some people backpacking and it looked like a lot of fun. I hope one day I can do that!

Italy is known for its fashion, namely Milan. It must be a lot of Italy because the streets are filled with fashions I have only seen in fashion magazines. As I mentioned yesterday, people are a lot dressier. Even though not everyone is in high fashion, many of the women have leather purses, scarves, and high heels on and so many of the men wear blazers and leather shoes. It is easy to distinguish the natives from the tourists. Italy is known for its high quality leather. Before I leave I plan to buy a wallet or a purse. I went into one store where the man working spoke Italian mainly. When I meant to say “okay”, I said si, or yes. Then when I told him, “thank you”, I said gratzi. Instead of it sounding smooth like it should be I pronounced it like gratzee (like Yahtzee, but with a grrrrr sound). Anyway, adios!

Still Tuesday…5 pm

We just a ate at a truly pure Italian restaurant. I ordered spaghetti al la carbonara. I thought it was going to be normal, to my standards of course, but alas, it was not. The spaghetti was more of a yellow color as opposed to the white shade I am used to seeing it as. It also contained more oil than I use. The carbonara (or bacon) was also very different. It was sweeter, but it was also boiled instead of being fried. Not my favorite way of preparing it, but it was interesting to try! 🙂

While we were eating the author, Dan Brown walked in. There were only two other tables eating at the time and mainly everyone kept to themselves. Brown was taking pictures with a lovely view of Florence as the back drop. He just wrote a new book called ‘Inferno’ and is famous for his book  ‘The Di vinci Code’.

 

I will continue with part 2 of my Italian adventures soon! Stay tuned!

Arrivederci,
Beth 🙂